Pott, Percival

, an English surgeon of the highest eminence, was born in Thread needle-street, London, in December 1713. His father dying before he was quite four years old, he was left, in some degree, to the protection and patronage of Wilcox, bishop of Rochester, who was a distant relation of his mother. The profession of surgery was his own decided choice, though the connection above mentioned might naturally have led him to the church; and, in 1729, he was bound apprentice to Mr. Nourse, one of the surgeons of St. Bartholomew’s hospital, under whom he was profoundly instructed, in what, at that time, was taught only by a few, the science of anatomy. His situation brought with it an abundance of practical knowledge, to which his own industry led him to add all that can be gained from a sagacious and careful perusal of the early writers on surgery. Thus qualified, he was admirably calculated to reform the superfluous and awkward modes of practice which had hitherto disgraced the art. In 1736, having finished his apprenticeship, he took a house in Fencburch-street, and quickly was distinguished as a young man of the most brilliant and promising talents. In 1745, he was elected an assistant surgeon; and, in 1749, one of the principal surgeons of St. Bartholomew’s hospital. It was one of the honours of Mr. Pott’s life, that he divested surgery of its principal horrors, by substituting a mild and rational mode of practice (notwithstanding the | opposition of the older surgeons), instead of the actual cautery, and other barbarous expedients which had hitherto been employed and he lived to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing his improved plan universally adopted. Though he possessed the most distinguished talents for communicating his thoughts in writing, it seems to have been by accident that he was led to become an author. Immersed in practice, it does not appear that hitherto he had written any thing, except a paper “on tumours attended with a softening of the bones,” in the forty-first volume of the Philosophical Transactions; but, in 1756, a compound fracture of the leg, occasioned by a fall of his horse in the streets, gave him leisure to plan, and in part to write, his Treatise on Ruptures. The flattering reception of his publications attached him afterwards to this mode of employing his talents, so that he was seldom long without being engaged in some work. His leg was with difficulty preserved, and he returned to the labours of his profession. In 1764, he had the honour of being elected a fellow of the Royal Society; and in the ensuing year he began to give lectures at his house, which was then in Watling-street; but finding it necessary, from the increase of his business, to choose a more central situation, he removed, in 1769, to Lincoln’s-rnn-fields, and in 1777 to Hanover-square. His reputation had now risen nearly to the greatest height, bj means of his various publications, and the great success of his practice. He was universally consulted, and employed by persons of the first rank and situation; and received honorary tributes to his merit from the royal college of surgeons at Edinburgh and in Ireland. In 1787, he resigned the office of surgeon to St. Bartholomew’s hospital, “after having served it,” as he expressed himself, “man and boy, for half a century” and in December 1788, in consequence of a cold caught by going out of town to a patient in very severe weather, he died, at the age of seventy-five. He was buried near his mother, in the church of St. Mary Aldermary, Bow-lane, where a tablet was affixed to his memory, inscribed by his son, the rev. J. H. Pott, the present archdeacon of London, and vicar of St. Martin’s-­in-the-fields.

The genius of Mr. Pott was certainly of the first order. As an author, his language is correct, strong, and animated. There are few instances, if any, of such classical elegance united with so much practical knowledge and | acuteness. His reading was by no means confined to professional works, but was various and extensive and his memory suffered nothing to escape. As a teacher he acquired the faculty of speaking readily, with great point and energy, and with a most harmonious and expressive elocution. As a practitioner in surgery, he had all the essential qualifications; sound judgment, cool determination, and great manual dexterity. The following is a list of his works: 1. “An Account of Tumours which soften the Bones,” Philos. Trans. 1741, No. 459. 2. “A Treatise on Ruptures,1756, 8vo, second edition, 1763. 3. “An Account of a particular kind of Rupture, frequently attendant upon new-born Children, and sometimes met with in Adults,1756, 8vo. 4. “Observations on that Disorder of the corner of the Eye commonly called Fistula Lachrytnalis,1758, 8vo. 5. “Observations on the Nature and Consequences of Wounds and Contusions of the Head, Fractures of the Skull, Concussions of the Brain,” &c. 1760, 8vo. 6. “Practical Remarks on the Hydrocele, or Watery Rupture, and some other Diseases of the Testicle, its Coats and Vessels. Being a Supplement to the Treatise on Ruptures, 1762,” 8vo. 7. “An Account of an Hernia of the Urinary Bladder including a Stone,” Philos. Transact, vol. LIV., 1764. 8. “Remarks on the Disease commonly caled a Fistula in Ano,1765, 8vo. 9. “Observations on the Nature and Consequences of those Injuries to which the Head is liable from external Violence. To which are added, some few general Remarks on Fractures and Dislocations,” 8vo, 1768. This is properly a second edition of No. 5. 10. “An Account of the Method of obtaining a perfect or radical Cure of the Hydrocele, or Watry Rupture, by means of a seton,1772, 8vo. 11. “Chirurgical Observations relative to the Cataract, the Polypus of the Nose, the Cancer of the Scrotum, the different kinds of Ruptures, and the Mortification of the Toes and Feet,1775, 8vo. 12. “Remarks on that kind of Palsy of the lower Limbs, which is frequently found to accompany a Curvature of the Spine, and is supposed to be caused by it; together with its Method of Cure,1779, 8vo. 13. “Further Remarks on the useless State of the lower Limbs in consequence of a Curvature of the Spine” being a supplement to the former treatise, 1783, 8vo. These works were published collectively by himself, in quarto and since his death, in 3 vols. 8vo, by his son-in-law, Mr. (now | sir) James, Earle, with occasional notes and observations, and the last corrections of the author. This edition was published in 1790; and Mr. Earle has prefixed a life of Mr. Pott, from which the present account is taken.

We are assured, that Mr. Pott was no less amiable in private life than eminent in his profession. While his mother lived, he declined matrimonial engagement but, in 1746, soon after her death, he married the daughter of Robert Outtenden, esq. by whom he had four sons and as many daughters. Diligent as he was in tiis profession, he never suffered his attention to its avocations to interfere with the duties of a husband or a father but though he was pleasing as a companion, his professional manners had much of the roughness of the old school of surgery. In his person he was rather lower than the middle size, with an expressive and animated countenance. For the chief part of his life his labours were without relaxation but latterly he had a villa at Neasden, and usually passed about a month at Bath, or near the sea. 1


Life, prefixed to his works.